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Autumn is the fruiting season in the garden, when berries and seed heads are at their best, and the brilliant colours of of autumn leaves change the character of the garden within a matter of days. 


In grand gardens noted for their fiery autumn colours, it's the big trees, like oaks and maples in the park, and the giant vines, like Virginia creeper covering the west wing, that make a splash as autumn comes around, but at home you can still create quite a ripple. Medium-sized trees, such as the paperbark maple (Acer griseum), the maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba) and the ornamental thorn, Crataegus persimilis "Prunifolia", are just as good. If the soil is acid, then go for flame-tinted liquidambar and Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica). For something more unusual, there's the spectacular Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), with heart shaped, smoky pink and yellow autumn leaves that smell of toffee apples when they fall.


Early Autumn - September

Clean the greenhouse; wash the glass, remove shading and check the heater. Remove old tomatoes and other fruits after harvesting.

Bring in frost-tender plants, such as fuchsias and pelargoniums; cut them back, pot them up and keep them frost-free and in good light.

Remove summer bedding when it has finished flowering and replace with winter pansies and ornamental cabbages.

Plant spring bulbs and spring bedding, e.g. wallflowers, polyanthus and primulas.

Prepare soil for new lawns, sow grass seed.

Mid Autumn - October

Plant deciduous trees, shrubs or climbers.

Lift tender summer bulbs, such as gladiolus, and dahlia tubers (allow frosts to blacken foliage before lifting); store in a frost-free shed.

Dig up potatoes and store in paper sacks in a frost-free shed.

Pick apples before the autumn gales. Store in a shed or the bottom of a fridge.

Lag the crowns of of tree ferns with straw tied loosely with string.

Tidy perennials; cut back dead stems, but leave ornamental seed heads, for winter interest and to feed birds.

Lay new turf any time between now and April.

Rake lawn to remove "thatch" and apply autumn lawn fertilizer.

Start compost heap.

Clear fallen leaves from lawn and rock garden.

Put net over fish pond.

Late Autumn - November

Plant tulips and hyacinths.

Clear fallen leaves from lawns, paths, flowerbeds and rock gardens.

Plant hedging or roses sold with bare roots.

After leaf fall, move any deciduous trees and shrubs that need it, provided they are not too big.


For more tips and advice see also the RHS Wisley Website December advice page

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